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Always About the Mountains: Chic Scott

Updated: Dec 13, 2018

By Pamela Marks, Marketing & Communications Specialist


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The Whyte Museum recently learned of an outstanding honour bestowed on well-known Banff mountaineer and historian Chic Scott. Chic received the Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration from The Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS) in Ottawa on November 1. According to the RCGS website, the Medal recognizes "...achievements in the realm of geographical exploration and/or discovery, which have fostered a greater appreciation for and understanding of the Canadian land mass, people and/or environment." Describing Chic as a “mountaineer, mentor, historian and writer” the RCGS selected him for his “contributions to mountaineering culture in Canada and abroad.”

The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, College of Fellows Annual Dinner, Medal Ceremony, November 1, 2018, Photographs © Mike Schmidt. Photograph 1: Gavin Fitch, President of the RCGS (left) and Chic Scott (right). Photograph 2: The 2018 RCGS medal winners.

Chic started his career in the world of rock climbing and then moved into alpine climbing. He participated in many significant expeditions and became a guide. Eventually, Chic transitioned into his current role as a writer, historian and storyteller. Thus, the Medal recognizes his role as a mountaineer, but it also recognizes that through his books and talks Chic has shared the world of exploration and mountains to audiences in Canada and beyond. Speaking about the RCGS honour, Chic recently shared, “I believe my lasting legacy will be that my guidebooks have played a role in getting people into the mountains.”

1967 Traverse Team. Left to right: Don Gardner, Chic Scott, Charlie Locke and Neil Liske in the parking lot at West Lake Louise at the successful conclusion of their 21-day traverse of the Great Divide Ski Traverse.

It is fair to say that Chic has a love of books. In fact, he has written 15 of them. His book projects take years of work. Typically, Chic gathers 500 to 1000 images in the process of writing one book. For Pushing the Limits, his epic book on Canada’s mountaineering history, he conducted and recorded on video tape 95 interviews. When writing a book he draws from both historic images and information that he researches, but also from new material that he gathers from conversations with people around their kitchen tables. “Books are out there forever, you can be proud of them forever— and they become resources,” says Chic.

[Chic Scott holding “Pushing the Limits”], Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Peter and Catharine Whyte Foundations fonds (V692/7/PA-1).

It isn’t unusual to find Chic spending time in the Archives and Library at the Whyte Museum. He is currently working on a commissioned book about Mount Assiniboine and Assiniboine Lodge. Chic shared, “Assiniboine is one of the great mountains and there are so many stories associated with it.” He is researching historic materials for the book in the Whyte Museum’s fonds of Caroline Hinman, A. O. Wheeler, Erling Strom, Elizabeth Rummel and the Alpine Club of Canada. He also plans to sit down with Sepp, Barb and Andre Renner and gather images from modern photographers so that he can include Assiniboine’s current story.


Chic shares the stories of the mountain communities that he is a part of through his books and his very popular Fireside Chat series at the Whyte Museum. “Stories matter,” says Chic, “stories are the group memory and identity of a place, and as a small mountain town with such a short history Banff has a remarkably unique history.” As an ongoing oral history project, the Fireside Chat series gives people a chance to share in the rich stories of the Canadian Rockies. The Fireside Chats consistently draw large live audiences. Filmed and shared on the Whyte Museum’s website at whyte.org/digitalvault the Chats are preserved and available to an even wider audience.


The next Fireside Chat of the series will take place on November 21 and will see Chic interviewing Jim Davies, a pioneer pilot in the fields of helicopter skiing and mountain rescue. The first Fireside Chat planned for 2019 will see somewhat of a change in format. For that Chat in April, Zac Robinson, Associate Professor, Kinesiology, Sport and Recreation at the University of Alberta, will interview Chic. Regarding being interviewed Chic commented, “when I was young, time was static and I was interested in the adrenaline and adventuring in the mountains— now I am a storyteller and I have plenty of stories to share both about my climbing days and about how I was inspired to become a writer.” And he adds, “my stories will always be about the mountains.”


The Whyte Museum sincerely congratulates Chic Scott on receiving the Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration and thanks him for his continuing contribution to preserving Banff’s history through his books and the Fireside Chat series.


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111 Bear Street, Banff, Alberta, T1L 1A3, Canada

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The Whyte Museum gratefully acknowledges the support of The Peter and Catharine Whyte Foundation and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts

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